A healthy working environment is not only one that is well ventilated (preferably not air-conditioned), naturally lit and free of pollution and noise. For people to be productive, they also need to be happy. Happy people are healthier people.
Seldom is staff asked what makes them happy, and what could make them happier. I did. Whilst conducting formal and informal research during the writing of Raise Your Leaders™, I had the pleasure of interviewing a number of established leaders, and their followers. Let me share them with you.
Empowerment and expression
Working in an environment that allows empowerment and self-expression, which accepts mistakes as a development mechanism and encourages creativity and innovation, will contribute to overall happiness. Affirmation (verbal and written) and appreciation (exhibited in money and other currencies such as flexibility and time off), make a difference on the happiness barometer too. The younger generation want their work to link to their sense of purpose and want to know what the ultimate outcome of their contribution to the company is. Personal development plus a sense of belonging is important for them, as is being respected – and being able to respect the people they work with and for.
Technology may make work more streamlined, but it has increased our connectivity and decreased our ability to switch off. Expectations have been elevated in all spheres. Many employers expect their team to be on call and available at any time, and not having clear divisions between work time and home time, can cause stress for individuals. Stress needs to be avoided or managed if an individual wishes to work on their happiness.
High performance and happiness are aligned
Leaders who prioritise happiness are those who see a difference in their workforce, and ultimately in overall results. Research by neuroscientists, industrial psychologists and economists proves that productivity can be measured in sick leave and absenteeism, which costs a company. Presenteeism (being at work whilst sick) is also counter-productive. We live in a country rife with non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and depression. In developing countries, up to 15% of the population have depression and 80% of them are left untreated. Surely both physical and emotional wellness is an entitlement, not a benefit?
Happy people claim to spend more hours of their working day being productive as a result of being more energised. Unhappy people can bring down the moral of happy people. Happy staff is more engaged, motivated and have a higher sense of self-belief. When an individual feels a connection to an organisation, then he or she is more likely to be happy.
There is a documented link between happiness and work performance, well researched by Jessica Pryce-Jones and her team at iOpener Institute. They state five factors of happiness at work – contribution (the effort you make), conviction (about your short-term motivation), culture (fitting into the organisation), commitment (engagement with your role) and confidence (your self-belief). Three elements of trust, recognition and pride form the foundation of this model.
Well-being in the workplace is of the utmost importance
More companies are providing on-site gyms and canteens that serve healthy and nutritious food. If your company is not providing anything, then why not suggest lunch-time walks to your colleagues and put a roster in place for supplying healthy lunches. Better physical health translates into more energy and a positive mindset. What also provides a sense of well-being is when people are working with their strengths and feeling confident, “in the zone”. In addition, if their competence equates to their challenges, there is a sense of homeostasis.
Harmony is enjoyed when there is cohesion in a team, when everyone makes an effort to get along with their team-mates. Whilst there will be dissention and disagreements, if they are tackled in a professional manner, harmony can remain constant. When a company, or even the departments within a company, allow their people to use and to feed off one another’s strengths, everyone is happier. Undertaking a task that undermines your confidence, by doing something that you know you will never succeed at, causes unhappiness. Being able to turn to someone in your team who is good at what you are not, gives you a sense of support and helps you to cope.
So is it the employer’s responsibility to provide happiness, or merely the environment in which their staff can flourish and be happy? Why is it that some people, regardless of being given the most conducive environment for happiness, are still not satisfied? In “Healing with Happiness” by Gee, Jaffer and Matanda, the benefits of happiness are outlined, and how to develop happiness intelligence. They state that happiness is a choice, that it can be measured and is contagious. Ultimately, we are all masters of our own destinies, and happiness is no exception. Make your choice…
Published June 2014
Gee, B., Jaffer, M. and Matanda, M. (2011) Healing with Happiness. Happiness University Press, Johannesburg.
Handley, J. (2013) Raise your Leaders. Jenny Handley Performance, Cape Town.
Pryce-Jones, J. (2013) Engagement and Happiness at Work: The Differences, iOpener Institute for People and Performance, 29 January 2014, http://www.iopenerinstitute.com/blog/2013/engagement-v-happiness.aspx?lang=en.